Watercolour Beginners: Paint with Just 3 Colours

Watercolour Beginners if you start off with 3 tubes of paints you can create all these and more colour mixes.

3 Tube Mixes by debiriley.com
3 Tube Mixes by debiriley.com

BEGINNERS’    3  TUBES:

Cobalt Blue  pb28     Permanent Rose pv19     Winsor Lemon py175               (Transparent Paint category)

For new beginners, when just starting out, limiting your palette to 3 tubes of paint can save you months  of frustration and discouragement. It will also save you the money spent on all those unnecessary paint tubes!

 

Another great benefit  to limiting your palette is the overall harmony and unification of the artwork created is greatly improved by fewer colours.    These images are more powerful and have a much better tonal value structure. See  Clouds,   note how using 3 tubes creates unification.

These are  things the beginner may not yet be able to verbalise,  but you definitely do “Sense” them.  You know “Something”  is awry!   You just aren’t sure what it is. Yet.

 

Many times Beginners start off with:  2 Reds,  2 Yellows, 2 Blues, + Greens, Purples, Grey, Black……..   This,  is generally a recipe for a  ‘Mud’ disaster!!   Many of these colours chosen are “warms” and when you mix 2 warms together it is very easy to get mud, most of the time, for Beginners!

An example:  cadmium red mixed with ultramarine blue, as a beginner I once hoped for a bright, lovely purple from this mix! But ended up with a dirty greyed muddy looking ugly purple.   Why?    BOTH of those colours are  “warms.”

Cad Red is a warmer red than Permanent Rose.  Ultramarine is a warmer blue than cobalt or cerulean.   Alas –  mixing   2 Warms  =  mud….. (for beginners.)   Keep in mind, with persistent practice over time, your skills grow and you learn how to mix the two creatively and with sensitivity With NO MUD!!    But that will take a while.

purple mixes debiriley.com
purple mixes debiriley.com

I like to start the beginners off with monochromes.

Then moving them on to duo chromes, thirdly the trio of paints. Once a solid grounding of tonal values is in place, its less likely to go out the window when more colours are added in. Unlike the scenario of 6-10 paint tubes, all beckoning to be used at the same time.  The feeling is like a child in a candy store. And before you know it,  you’ve had way too much!!    Oops!

From these 3 colours you can create: terracotta, brown, chocolate, burgundy, beige, heaps of foliage greens, fuchsia, magenta, pink, orange, scarlet, purples, slate grey, dove grey, charcoal grey, black.  Nearly….. all the colours you want, you can make with these 3 paints!

And all the while,   you are saving money,  learning more rapidly with less stress-about colour mixing, getting better tonal values, creating more unification in your work,  and giving yourself snippets of encouragement!

landscape greens debiriley.com
landscape greens debiriley.com

This chart was a quick 2 minute sample in class to demonstrate how to create at least 5 greens from the 3 tubes that would be adequate, in a landscape or still life painting.

 

djr colour chart debiriley.com
djr colour chart debiriley.com

Students at Atwell Gallery,   UWA extension,   in Perth, W.A.   you can find the paints at several art stores including Jacksons Art Supplies Alfred Cove, directly across from Atwell Gallery.  They can order in Daniel Smith watercolours.   My suggestions for brands of paint – is #1   keep it artist quality.

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